The Disgusting and Dangerous Truth About Pedicures

Women (and plenty of men) love pedicures. And who wouldn’t? From work shoes to workout shoes, we put our feet through a lot of abuse. After a hard week, it feels great to have your feet scrubbed, massaged, and pampered. Unfortunately, these fantastic foot treatments can have much less fantastic repercussions.

Minor problems could include issues as minor as warts or ingrown toenails. While generally just painful, ingrown toenails can be deadly for those with diabetes or certain other conditions. And with nasty germs like antibiotic-resistant bacteria lurking in some salons, your toenails could be the last thing you’re worried about. In more severe cases, infections from pedicures can lead to amputations and even death.

Any time sharp objects are in proximity to your body, you want to make sure they’ve been thoroughly sterilized. That’s just common sense. However, even sanitizing tools and foot baths can’t prevent infections. Places that sanitize their foot baths after each use may not be able to get all the grossness out of the jets, and tools can be contaminated after coming out of the autoclave. Worse, a lot of tools like nail files and buffers can’t be put in the autoclave.

So what can you do about it?

The safest option is to avoid salon pedicures altogether. You can do them yourself (or a friend) and save money. Even if you buy a foot spa and some tools and lotions, you’ll still save money– especially compared to the medical expenses you might incur if you get an infection from a salon. Invite friends over, pop some brownies in the oven, and put on a favorite movie.

If you do choose to continue going to salons, try to find one with high safety ratings. There are even some websites and publications that will list the safest salons in your city. If you’re on your own, however, don’t panic. Just drop into a few salons to do your research.

A safe salon will minimize your contact with anything that’s touched another customer or been exposed to air for long lengths of time. Most of the tools should be disposable and used only on your feet– no one else’s. Your safest bet is to bring our own tools to the salon, or else find a place that charges a bit more to give each client their own set of things like files and clippers.

Never use the jets while receiving a pedicure. In fact, your best option is to choose a salon that uses removable liners on their non-bubbling foot baths. Don’t shave right before getting a pedicure, and make sure that they cut your toenails straight across (not rounded) to avoid ingrown toenails. Make sure that the salon uses legitimate sterilization techniques, not just a few minutes in a UV sterilization machine.

And if you have diabetes or a disease that compromises your immune system, you may want to go to a podiatrist for all your foot care. That $50 pedicure isn’t worth your life.